Assemblymember Rudy Salas (D-Bakersfield) applauded the signing of Assembly Bill (AB) 2369, which will encourage more survivors to seek Domestic Violence Restraining Orders (DVROs) by requiring the court to order abusers to pay for a survivor’s attorney’s fees and costs.
Under the previously existing law, the Domestic Violence Prevention Act has the purpose of preventing acts of domestic violence, abuse, and sexual abuse. The law also provided for a separation of the persons involved in the domestic violence for a period sufficient to enable those persons to seek a resolution of the causes of the violence
The law in place also authorized a court to issue a protective order enjoining a party from engaging in specified acts, including threatening or harassing the other party or disturbing the peace of the other party.
AB 2369, which was signed by Governor Newsom on September 27, was introduced by Assemblymember Salas to remove barriers for survivors seeking DVROS. In many instances, courts require domestic violence survivors to meet higher standards than their abusers when awarding attorney’s fees in DVRO cases. As a result of these higher standards, many attorneys are reluctant to take on survivors’ cases, and many survivors are discouraged from even filing their requests in the first place.
“AB 2369 is a common-sense bill that ensures domestic violence survivors are protected from harassment and receive the justice they deserve,” said Assemblymember Salas. “Survivors and their families should not have to fear going to court because they cannot afford an attorney. We must level the playing field to ensure that survivors are safe and free from violence and abuse.”
According to a press release sent out by Assemblymember Salas’s office, financial abuse is prevalent in most abusive relationships and, because of this, most survivors are not able to afford an attorney.
“In fact, almost 90 percent of DVRO litigants are self-represented. While DVROs are designed to protect survivors, a survivor’s DVRO request can be denied if they cannot advocate for themselves in court or navigate complex rules and laws,” the press release stated.
The press release also revealed that courts currently have the discretion to deny a DVRO, even if they find that past abuse has occurred. This leaves survivors not only vulnerable but at risk of having to pay for their abuser’s attorney fees as well as their own — even after being abused.
Under the previously existing law, the court was authorized to issue an order for the payment of attorney’s fees and costs of the prevailing party. Because of this, if a survivor was not granted their DVRO in court, their abuser would be deemed the prevailing party.
“We are thrilled at the signing of AB 2369, championed by Assemblymember Salas,” said Cory
Hernandez, attorney at the Family Violence Appellate Project. “AB 2369 addresses barriers to legal representation by removing unnecessary hurdles under existing law for survivors to recover needed fees, incentivizing attorneys to take low-income survivors’ cases, and making it harder for abusers to harass their victims in court.”
AB 2369 is a continuation of Assemblymember Salas’s work to support victims of domestic violence. In 2021 Assemblymember Salas successfully passed AB 673, which increased state funding for domestic violence shelters and the services they provide.